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A common plot for stories set during the Cold War. A character from Commie Land wants to get to the West and the heroes have to help them get there. (There are also what are called "defectors in place", but they're the Reverse Mole).
This will sometimes entail them actually traversing the Iron Curtain, but it doesn't have to.
The defector will often bring a present with them to the West (aside from a nice chest in some cases). These can include:
- The name of or clues as to the identity of The Mole.
- Copied documents (often in microfilm form)
- Electronics, such as a coding machine.
- A full-blown piece of military tech, such as a fighter plane, helicopter or a ballistic missile submarine, basically by flying it across the Iron Curtain.
- The plot behind one Buck Danny story: a Russian pilot in a brand-new fighter asks for asylum in the US.
- The first issue of Global Frequency deals with a Soviet defector in San Francisco, who went over to America out of love of the country. Unfortunately, he's got a chip in his head meant to open a gateway to a nuclear silo in Russia, and ten years down the line, it's starting to break down, causing spatial distortions and putting the entire city at risk. When a Global Frequency agent tells him about all this and has him at gunpoint, hoping to convince him there's some reason for his death, he helps aim the gun himself, saying "You would have missed."
- James Bond has two examples:
- From Russia with Love, although she's actually in Turkey first.
- The Living Daylights has two: Renegade Russian General Koskov, and later Kara Milovy. The former gets the latter (his girlfriend) to pose as a KGB sniper to make his defection look real, with every intention of having her killed by James Bond. Bond notes that she's an amateur and merely shoots the rifle from her hands. "I must have scared the living daylights out of her."
- The same situation occurs in the original short story, although there isn't actually a defector: The man Bond is protecting is a British agent trying to make it back to the West, and Milovy is a real KGB sniper, albeit with an AK-47, with the Code Name "Trigger". Bond decides she's rather a looker, doesn't want to kill someone in cold blood and does the same as he does in the movie, but with more serious injuries.
- And one inversion in Goldeneye, in the form of ex-MI-6 Alec Trevelyan.
- Condorman's main plot is set off by the High Heel Face Turn of KGB spy Natalia, who falls for the titular dashing top-secret agent during a courier mission. She's unaware that he's really a comic book writer who convinced his CIA friend to let him take the mission as a way to prove that he can actually be Condorman. Hilarity Ensues as they are chased all over Eastern Europe by Natalia's former boss and his murderous goons.
- The Spy Who Came in from the Cold: in common speech beyond this wiki, John Le Carre is the Trope Namer. This is sort of thing is called "to come in from the cold".
- Also Karla in Smiley's People.
- Northlight, a Quiller novel by Adam Hall. Quiller is sent to bring across The Mole who has evidence that the Soviets destroyed a British submarine outside their territorial limit. It turns out that his superiors don't want this evidence made public because the outcry would halt an upcoming peace conference, so they set up Quiller and the mole to be killed.
- The Hunt for Red October. With the aforementioned ballastic missile submarine.
- The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Agent From H.A.R.M." has this as Backstory.
- Airwolf has quite a few examples. It helped that the titular Black Helicopter had stealth capability for extractions from Commie Land.
- Common in Mission Impossible.
- Also common in MacGyver.
- In one episode of The West Wing, a North Korean concert pianist performing in the US slips a note to the US stating his desire to defect. The administration have to reluctantly decline.
- The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries used this three times:
- Sole Survivor revolved around East Germans trying to stop the defection of a Chinese scientist, using a Mind Screw to get Joe Hardy to spill his guts.
- Mystery On The Avalanche Express had a side plot of a ski champion wanting to defect to the West, and dragging Joe into the matter.
- Defection To Paradise had the daughter of a top Russian Official being chased down by Russian assassins, and Frank and Joe trying to help her escape.
- Metal Gear Solid 3.
- The very first mission of No One Lives Forever involves Cate Archer breaking an East German scientist who wants to defect to Britain out of a military installation. After succeeding, their plane is boarded by H.A.R.M. agents on the way back to Britain. They kidnap the scientist and blow a hole in the plane, causing Archer to fall out, leading to an action sequence in which the player has to fight off paratrooping Mooks and steal the parachute off one of them or else fall fatally into a barn.
- During the Cold War, the Americans acquired examples of a number of Soviet fighters via defecting pilots, from several countries. Some of these planes were returned, but others were kept. The most famous example is Viktor Belenko, who defected with a MiG-25 in 1976 to Japan. He landed practically on fumes, missing another aircraft and overrunning the runway. While the Americans could only do ground tests on the thing and had to give it back to the USSR (they did so, in crates), they learned a massive amount about the "Foxbat", forced the cancellation of two Soviet aircraft carriers and forced the Reds with Rockets to completely revise their target classification systems.
- Nadia Comăneci, famous Romanian Olympic gymnast, defected to the US in 1989. A few weeks later, Romania had a revolution.
- Martina Navrátilová, world famous tennis player.
- Vladimir Bogdanovich Rezun, better known by his Cold War pen name of "Viktor Suvorov", a former GRU agent who defected in 1978 and since then has written a number of controversial books on Soviet history and the Reds with Rockets. He was on the team for The Third World War: The Untold Story.
- Mikhail Baryshnikov, the ballet dancer and actor.
- A rather famous case once occurred in the DMZ between North and South Korea where a fairly important Soviet diplomat literally ran across the demarcation line asking for asylum with the NK guards shooting at him. He managed to make it and rather humiliated the Soviet Union with his actions.
- Svetlana Alliluyeva, daughter of Josef Stalin.
- Viktor Korchnoi, one of the strongest chess player of the world in the 1970s and 1980s.
- Two-thirds of CSKA Moscow's Mogilny/Fedorov/Bure line defected to the US to play in the NHL, while Bure left after the fall of the Soviet Union.
- Inverted in an episode of The Simpsons, where a ballet teacher is such a hardass that he defects to East Germany.